Archive for August, 2011

August 31, 2011

Privacy and Data Management in Government Part 1

Talking and listening to Jim Harris of OCDQ Blog has got me thinking about data management. Specifically I’m thinking about the challenges facing data management in the New Zealand government sector – where I currently work. Initially when I started here, and saw some issues relating to data management, I thought: “yep, I’ve seen this before – the issues and the answers are the same as in the private sector.” Now that I have been working here a bit longer, I realise that this is only half right, that there are some issues that are specific to government (or the New Zealand government) and that some solutions common in the private sector cannot be straightforwardly applied here either.

One of the significant challenges facing data management in government is navigating the restrictions and constraints introduced by privacy legislation. Why does this matter and how does it impact data management? Well, to take just one example: you can’t create a single view of a customer (or citizen) if the interpretation of privacy law is that you aren’t allowed to match pieces of  information about the same person if they are obtained for different purposes. I thought I’d write a series of short posts on this topic, starting with this one on why privacy is a bigger issue for government agencies than it is for the private sector.

August 30, 2011

What Is A Bill For?

In a previous post I examined what a bill is, but that leaves us with the question of what a bill is for. To really understand how to best design a bill and how to best architect the underlying people, processes, information and technology needed to deliver that bill we need to understand why we are doing all of this. We need to understand the real purpose of a bill.

My belief is that the most important purpose of a bill is to get the customer to pay the service provider what they owe. It does that by giving them a range of information, and we can make it more or less successful by how well it conveys that information. For instance if it is unclear what the charges are for, or how they were arrived at, then people will be less likely to pay their bill (without querying it). We have then undermined the fundamental purpose of the bill. Thus, most of what we regard as “the purpose” of a bill is merely a means to this end: to communicate the charges accrued since last bill, to clearly communicate what the customer owes, to convince them that we have correctly calculated their bill. They are just ways that we convince the customer that they should pay the service provider that amount (and pay it now, please).

We might use the bill for other aims – to help us market for instance – but that shouldn’t distract us from this primary goal: getting the customer to pay!

August 18, 2011

What Is a Bill?

In an earlier post I raised the question of “what is sexy billing?” That is: what would an organisation’s billing capability look like if it was regarded as positive and desirable rather than negative and boring? This was based on assumptions about what “billing” was – an assumption questioned in the comments. So I then wrote a post describing what I thought “billing” meant. This in turn raises questions about what a bill really is, which I will attempt to answer here.